Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Frances Goldman


The traditional role of workforce training by community colleges in support of regional economic development is insufficient to help rural areas survive in a global economy. Rural community colleges are uniquely positioned to provide enhanced economic development support through entrepreneurship and small business development programs. Using Woolcock and Narayan's conceptualization of social capital, the purpose of this case study of 4 community colleges in a midwest state was to identify specific entrepreneurship strategies rural community colleges use relative to economic development. The data were collected via email and telephone interviews with 11 employees connected to leadership and/or economic development from the 4 community colleges. Interview data were transcribed, inductively coded, and subjected to thematic analysis according to job duties of the respondents. Findings from this study indicate that key factors in improving entrepreneurial capacity include a need to strengthen leadership development, and enhance regional social capital through synergy networks linked to economic development efforts involving the rural college. These findings are similar to the Rural Community College Initiative that was funded by the Ford Foundation. The implications for social change stemming from this study include advocating entrepreneurship through social capital and shared vision via rural community colleges to stabilize and strengthen those regions, with the potential creating more vibrant economies for rural communities.